Ballet Nice Méditerranée opens the 2019-2020 season with its traditional open-air production at the city’s Théâtre de Verdure, and this year the work is Cassandra by choreographer Luciano Cannito.
The inspiration for Cannito’s Cassandra came from the novel Kassandra by the well-known East German literary figure, Christa Wolf. Wolf’s novel is a retelling of the story of Cassandra, daughter of Priam, king of Troy, which was set against the background of the Trojan War. Cassandra possessed the gift of prophecy, foretelling the dramatic episode of the Trojan horse – which led to the fall of the city of Troy at the hands of Odysseus and his Greek warriors – but her prophecies were never taken seriously, and her warnings went unheeded.
Wolf’s novel has a more contemporary setting, and is written, almost as a monologue, by Cassandra. The author takes aim at those who trigger wars with their propaganda speeches targeted at the masses, highlighting her view that women more often show lucidity and heroism than men, with a focus on the effect that war has on those who never sought it in the first place.
Luciano Cannito has moved this story even further forward in time. His ballet is set in a village in Sicily. His heroine Cassandra can foresee the effect of the introduction of television on her village, and the drama which this will bring, but because nobody takes her predictions seriously, she is powerless to prevent her village from losing its cultural identity completely.
The career of Luciano Cannito – who has collaborated several times with Ballet Nice – embraces his success as a dancer, theatre director, artistic director and choreographer. Companies which he has directed include Balletto di Napoli, the Petruzzelli Theatre in Bari, Balletto di Roma and the Ballet Company of the Teatro San Carlo Opera House in Napoli.
In addition to Cassandra, his works include Marco Polo, Amarcord, Five Seasons, Mare Nostrum and Barbie’s World, which have been performed at some of the world’s most prestigious theatres and festivals – including La Scala Theatre in Milan, the Lincoln Center in New York, The Opera of Rome, the Place des Artes in Montreal, the National Theatre of Ankara, the Bat Dor Dance Company of Israel, the Olimpico Theatre of Rome, the Teatro Regio of Parma, the National Opera Theatre of Tbilisi, the Estonian National Theatre and the Orange County Performing Center of Los Angeles.
Cannito produced, scripted, choreographed and directed a theatrical remake of An American in Paris – premiered at Sistina Theatre of Rome – as well as an Italian version of the musical Beauty and the Beast. In June 2000 he restaged for La Scala his theatre production Amarcord, based on the Oscar-winning film by Federico Fellini, with music by Nino Rota, and in the same year he created ROC.COM for San Carlo Opera House, using new technologies for virtual sets, and live music by a rock band.
In his interpretation of Cassandra, Luciano Cannito has created a work which blends classical ballet and contemporary dance with that of Sicilian folklore as well. The original score is by Marco Schiavoni, with extracts from the music of Camille Saint-Saëns, Sergei Prokofiev and Elvis Presley.
Ballet Nice Méditerranée – directed by Éric Vu An – performs Cannito’s Cassandra at the Théâtre de Verdure, Espace Jacques Cotta, Promenade des Anglais in Nice, on 13th, 14th and 15th September.
Lead image courtesy Opéra de Nice